I’ve been gradually making my way through the entire lineup of headphones from audio equipment maker Focal, and so far, I’ve been quite impressed with the audio quality of their entire series – from their value priced Spark in-ear headphones, up to their ultra-premium Utopia open-back model. Across the board, sound quality has been very good, accompanied by a clean and timeless design aesthetic.
After having a chance to test out their mid-line Listen over-the-ear headphones and liking them very much, I got my hands (and ears) on the recently-released wireless version as well.
Like their wired brethren, the Listen Wireless sit snugly over the ears, offering confidence that they won’t slip and slide around if you start bobbing your head to your favorite jams. The snug fit also does a great job shutting out background noise. Their earcups are nicely padded with thick memory foam cushions, and their foldable headband offers a good amount of adjustability to fit just about any head size, including my giant noggin. Their styling is quite clean and simple, with more steak than sizzle.
One thing I miss from the wired version are the matte chrome ear covers, which looked better than the shiny piano black plastic on the $50 more expensive wireless model. My best guess is that the metal was interfering with the wireless antenna, and that’s why they had to go, but the plastic makes them look and feel just a bit cheaper than the wired model. Plus piano black is a notorious fingerprint magnet.
In terms of sound, the Listen Wireless headphones don’t disappoint. Like all of the Listen headphones I’ve tested, there seems to be a great concern with preserving the original sonic properties of music, rather than artificially emphasizing certain frequencies like some other headphone makers do. sounds are clean and natural, and well suited to listening to vocal-centered tracks, as well as jazz, classical, and rock music. There’s still good low-end too – it’s just not bone-rattling. In my listening tests, low frequencies started to emerge around 18 Hz, and the highs cut out just north of 20 kHz. Imaging is good when fed with well separated stereo sounds, though their soundstage is fairly small.
Some wireless headphones suffer in the volume department, but that’s not the case here. There’s plenty of amplitude to go around here, and without distortion or harshness. Battery life is also very good, offering up to 20 hours of playback on a charge. Of course, this depends on volume level, but it’s an impressive figure even at half that, and more than enough for all but the longest transcontinental flights. In the event that you do manage to run out of battery for any reason, Focal includes a 3.5mm cable, so you can plug into devices that have a headphone jack too. On a wired connection, they can reach an even higher volume level – more than any human who wants to keep their hearing should ever need.
Focal has another winner on their hands with the Listen Wireless Headphones. Like the wired version, they sound fantastic, offering up clean and accurate music reproduction, with excellent vocals and very good dynamic range. They’re priced at $299(USD), and and you can find a local retailer via the Focal website.